Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:07 am
The Messenger, March 8, 2012
Where is Jesus now?
By REV. WALLY BUMPAS
Special to The Messenger
Where is Jesus now? What is He doing? We know plenty about what Jesus did when He was here — about His life, death and resurrection. But what has He been doing since He left the planet 2000 years ago? That’s a long time to just sit on a throne!
The Heidelberg Catechism has been walking us line-by-line through the Apostles’ Creed. Christians around the world regularly recite the Apostles’ Creed as a public confession of what they believe to be true about God and about His work in the world. Concerning God the Son, the Creed includes this item: “He ascended into heaven.” We know He ascended into heaven (Acts 1), but perhaps we haven’t given much thought to why this matters.
The ascension of Christ certainly tends to get neglected. We know about His birth, and Christmas makes sure we don’t forget it. His death and resurrection are central to the whole Bible story, and we have Easter (as well as each Sunday) to keep those events fresh in our minds. But why is it important to remember and to confess regularly that Jesus “ascended into heaven”?
Question 46 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: What do you mean by saying “He ascended into heaven”? Answer: That Christ, while His disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth to heaven and will be there for our good until He comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Christ ascended into heaven “for our good.” What a magnificent understatement! We will need the next couple of articles to answer the question of just what He is doing. But first, we need to answer a related question: Where is Jesus today?
That may seem like a silly question to many. Everybody knows where Jesus is, right? “He’s everywhere.” Or we might say, “He’s in my heart.” Or we might say, “He’s in heaven.” Haven’t we just been saying He ascended into heaven? So which is it — everywhere, in my heart or in heaven? Can He be in all those places at once?
Is He invisible now, even though He was solid and “real” after He rose from the dead? Is He still a man with a human body? Then how can He be everywhere? How can He live in me? The question of Jesus’s current location is not as simple as one might think. The answer lies in two of the great mysteries of Christianity: the Trinity and the dual nature (fully God and fully man) of Christ.
Let’s consider the next two questions of the Heidelberg. Question 47: But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as He promised us? Answer: Christ is truly human and truly God. In His human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in His divinity, majesty, grace and Spirit He is not absent from us for a moment.
Question 48: If His humanity is not present wherever His divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other? Answer: Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity He has taken on, but at the same time His divinity is in and remains personally united to His humanity.
Now that’s confusing! Let’s try to simplify. If Jesus is fully man with a real (though resurrected and glorified) human body, then (like us) He can only be in one place at a time. The physical person that the apostles saw leaving in Acts 1 is in heaven. He is not here, and He is not everywhere at once. If Jesus is fully human then He has that physical limitation. It is a “limitation” that we greatly benefit from, as we will see in the next article.
But that’s only part of the story. Jesus also promised to be with us until the end of the world (Matthew 28:20). He promised to be present when we gather in His name (Matthew 18:20). And Paul, speaking for all Christians, clearly said “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). How is this possible?
It is gloriously possible because the three persons of the Trinity, though distinct, indwell each other. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). Jesus said “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me” (John 17:20). So when the Holy Spirit (who is not limited by a body) indwells the Christian, Christ is there, too (along with the Father). And since the Lord (the Father) is said to fill all creation (Psalm 139), then so does Jesus fill all creation with His presence.
Yet the two natures of Christ are never separated. He remains one person. This is beyond our comprehension, but it is not revealed to us as a puzzle to solve. It is given for our everlasting comfort. Though in heaven, and very busy (read next week’s article), yet Jesus can promise us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
(If you have questions or would like to comment on this article, you may do so online at http://graceunioncity.com/resources/gcc-in-the-news. Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your comment.)
Editor’s note: Wally Bumpas serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dyersburg.